Sexual abuse of children is an important societal problem: up to 20% of children have been approached by an adult in a sexual context or have been victims of sexual abuse. Approximately half of sex offenses against children are perpetrated by individuals with a diagnosis of pedophilia. The identification, management and treatment of sexual offenders with pedophilia are key tasks in forensic psychiatry. Pedophilia can be divided into several subtypes, based on factors such as the age of the preferred target. Recent research has begun to elucidate possible psychological and neurobiological mechanisms underlying pedophilia. Neuroimaging studies have identified abnormalities in the emotional processing of sexual stimuli in pedophilic offenders. In the future, findings such as these may assist forensic psychiatrists in classifying sexual offenders, and perhaps in developing therapeutic interventions and assessing treatment response.
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